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The Marginalization of the Balinese

Bali Tourism Leaders Tells the Governor that Growth Must be Slowed as Carrying Capacity of the Island and its Culture Under Severe Strain

(8/9/2013) 

A meeting among leaders from Bali’s tourism industry has urged fellow tourism practitioners not to prostitute Bali by adding more accommodation without reference to the Island’s carrying capacity. The same meeting also called for Bali’s leadership to be unpretentious in their demeanour, more concerned with safeguarding Bali’s culture, God fearing and fearful of certain retribution for wrong doings (Karma Pala).
 
As reported by The Bali Post, the round table discussion held on Monday, August 5, 2013, was attended by the secretary general of the Denpasar Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI-Denpasar) A.A. Ngurah Adhi Ardhana; the chairman of the Bali chapter of the Association of Tour and Travel Agents (ASITA-Bali) Ketut Ardana;  the chairman of the People’s Alliance for Bali Tourism, Gusti Kade Sutawa; and an academic from Bali’s Tourism Institute (STP),Wayan Mertha.
 
The secretary general of PHRI-Denpasar, Adhi Ardhana, said that any calculation of the carrying capacity of tourist accommodation in Bali can not only look at the number of rooms, but must also take into consideration the quality of the overall tourism product. He warned that as the number of rooms approached 80,000, Bali once known as “The Last Paradise” is in danger of becoming “The Lost Paradise.” Adding: “The number of hotel rooms in Bali is over capacity in comparison with the number of tourists coming to Bali and those rooms are almost all located in South Bali. If we now create a new destination (i.e. reclaimed island resort) with thousands of more rooms in Benoa Bay, this will destroy Bali’s tourism atmosphere.”
 
Ardhana called on Bali governor Made Mangku Pastika to be cautious is issuing statements saying Bali needs many more rooms to meet the needs of travelers during major events. He added: “So what happens when there are no big events like APEC and the Forbes Global CEO Summit? Who’s going to fill the empty rooms? Because of this, the Governor should not recklessly make statements. With 80,000 hotel rooms on record and another 100,00 not recorded, I don’t think Bali needs to be reclaiming land to house another 25,000 tourist visitors.”
 
He also asked the governor to reconsider allowing large investors a foothold in Bali as the money they bring does not have the desired multiplier effect on the Balinese economy. This is demonstrated by the high rate of poverty and unemployment that still persist in Bali.
 
Information from the Bali Center for Statistics (BPS-Bali) from March 2012, counts 168,780 people (4.18%) as still living below the poverty line. The poor are distributed to 91,440 people living in urban settings and 77,340 in rural areas. And, despite the rapid rate of development taking place in Bali, there is no appreciable reduction in the number of poor with 160,950 people still classified as impoverished in September 2012. This is a decline of only 0.22% from the previous March
 
Continuing his analysis, Ardhana explained: “Investment in 2012 reached Rp. 7 trillion (US$ 700 million) with only 5% of that amount from local investors and the remainder coming from outside Bali. If we now add the development of Benoa Bay rumored to be worth Rp. 30 trillion, we can only imagine what Bali will fast become. It is also uncertain that the 200,000 jobs created will be local Balinese as promised by the Governor."
 
Ardhana who is a member of Bali’s hotel industry is deeply concerned at the rapid rise in the number of hotel rooms in Bali. ‘’We are already overwhelmed with tariff wars and intense competition underway. If we add more rooms then Bali tourism will sink as a business,” Ardhana said.
 
The chairman of the People’s Alliance for Bali Tourism Gusti Kade Sutawa, expressed a similar sentiment for Bali Tourism. The rapid rise in tourist accommodation in Bali seriously threatens Bali’s future. He warned that uncontrolled growth will result in unhealthy competition and a cheap tourism product.   
 
“Bali must market itself at an appropriate price, not cheaply. We have a unique quality not held by other destinations. Tourists who come to Bali want to see our culture, not hotels. So don’t build new hotels, let alone new hotels on reclaimed land that destroys the environment,” said Sutawa.
 
Sutawa warned that creation of a new island destination in Benoa Bay would cause a population explosion. Bali is already growing at a rate of 4.5% per year, much higher than the national average of 2%. At the same time the birth rate in Bali is only 1% meaning that the remaining 3.5% in population growth is due to migration from other islands. “Just imagine,” said Sutawa, “if we build a new destination (in the South), what percentage of newcomers will gather there. These are people who won’t support Balinese culture.”
 
To maintain Bali’s culture, Sutawa said, the government must pay attention to the endemic population of Bali, the Island’s culture and traditions, and the land of Bali. “If the people and their beliefs are different, it will be impossible to preserve Balinese culture. Bali must remain the property of the Balinese, don’t let it be owned by outside investors,” Sutawa said.
 
The governor recently defended the program for reclaiming large tracks of wetlands in Benoa Bay saying such development was needed for Bali’s future. Governor Pastika said the development would create 200,000 new jobs and would meet the needs of the estimated 10 million visitors expected in Bali within the coming five years.